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Deployed environmental stewardship pays off

  • Published
  • By Capt. Jason McCree
  • 386th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
In the middle of the desert, Airmen have gone 'green'.

These green Airmen, deployed to the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing, are participating in a recycling program designed to reduce the waste produced at an air base in Southwest Asia.

Items such as wooden pallets, metals, cardboard, plastic bottles and aluminum cans are all recycled by the Airmen who eat, sleep, live and work here.

"We have established a program where people can bring in plastic bottles, cardboard and aluminum cans to a centralized point," said Master Sgt. Stephen Crews, 386th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron. "These products are collected and hauled off base [to be recycled]."

To bring this recycling program to fruition, base officials contracted with a host-nation waste-management company.  Airmen provide the contractor sorted recyclable material; the contractor transports the recyclable products to a facility where they are recycled and sold. 

Through this arrangement, the wing reduces the host-nation's solid-waste disposal costs by removing items from the waste stream that can be re-utilized, thereby reducing the number of pounds of waste requiring disposal.

"The wing also receives money as part of the arrangement with the contractor," said Lt. Col. Scott Warner, 386th ECES commander.

"Between November 2007 and March, the contractor removed more than 32 thousand pounds of scrap metal, netting tens of thousands of dollars for the wing," said Colonel Warner. "Additionally, from February to April this year, the contractor recycled more than 50 thousand pounds of plastic bottles and cardboard, decreasing the amount of solid waste and saving money on garbage disposal costs."

The proceeds from the sale of recyclable materials first must be used to cover the recycling operation costs, said Maj. Trevor Matsuo, 386th AEW budget officer. This includes all maintenance, equipment and overhead costs incurred from the recycling program.

"If a balance is still available, then half should be used to fund pollution abatement, energy conservation and occupational safety and health activities," said Major Matsuo, who is deployed from Kadena Air Base, Japan. "The remaining funds are then made available for the wing commander to fund morale and welfare activities."

Plastic water bottles and cans are the wing's most-recycled materials. While there are recycling bins located throughout the wing, the bulk of these items come from the fitness center and dining facility.

Master Sgt. P.J. Gacayan, 386th AEW command staff superintendent, is an Airman deployed here who takes advantage of the recycling opportunities throughout the base. 

"I recycle when I'm at home, so I was glad to see that I could continue recycling here," said Sergeant Gacayan, deployed from Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England. "This is my contribution to help enhance the health of our environment and make it better for the next generation."

Recycling is also important to Colonel Warner, as he sees benefits in being good stewards of the environment.

Recycling benefits the environment, in that it makes productive use of materials that would otherwise end up in a landfill or burned, he said. 

"As stewards of the taxpayers' dollars, we process this material through our recycling contractor, contributing to the economy of the local host nation as well as providing a small cash stream back to America.

"It is to our benefit to reduce the amount of material that ends up as waste," said Colonel Warner. "It is important to promote the establishment and well-being of a 'Green' industry focused turning trash and debris into clean, useful products."

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